The readers need to understand what is the subject matter of penal laws and civil laws to get deep into the topic of discussion? Penal laws can also be termed criminal law which is governed by the state. It prohibits acts that are threatening social welfare and harm the safety of its people and mentions the punishment for the convict in such acts. On the other hand, civil laws deal with the subject matter of private relationships in commercial or civic arrangements. The main purpose of civil law is to solve all issues and misunderstandings amongst the parties by providing compensation rather than a serious punishment to the culprit. And the penal laws believe in providing justice by giving serious punishment in pursuit of justice. Usually, civil matters are discussed with maturity and are subject to a solution benefiting both the parties mutually and the interest of both sides is upheld subject to legal boundaries. To register a stronger claim parties take a wrongful way of making the civil trial into a criminal one. Several instances suggest that to gain unreasonable advantage wrongful methods are used. Such methodologies are a threat to the judicial system as such methods are the reasons for miscarriage of justice harming the interest of the entire judiciary.
Ways in which Penal laws are misused
It is important to note that all the civil matters registering their penal outlook may not always be in the purview of misuse of legal powers. But it is the responsibility of the learned individual to segregate both circumstances and address the issue in the same regard. Usually, the process starts by initiating a civil procedure allowing the party to monetary compensation and relief is provided by the judicial process of the Hon’ble Court. The only ambiguity in this process is related to the period associated with it, generally, such long intervals make the parties frustrated in the matter and to obtain relief on urgent bases such steps are taken.
One of the landmark cases discussed in the apex court was M/S Indian Oil Corporation v. M/S Nepc India Ltd, In this case, there was a contract between Indian Oil Corporation and NEPC India to supply fuel for the aircraft. But the payment for the same was not timely and resulted in multiple disagreements between the parties. At last, the Indian Oil Corporation stop supplying the fuel and requested the Court to restrict the movement of aircraft so that recovery of the dues can be done. When the civil matter was before the Hon’ble court additional suit was filed by Indian Oil Corporation stating that NEPC India is disregarding previous orders by the Hon’ble High Court of Madras and removed both the engines and certain parts of the Aircraft. Further, there was a criminal case filed against the company under Sections 378, 403, 415, and 425. The Supreme Court categorically observed the malicious tendency of commercial organisations in converting their civil disputes into criminal matters. The Hon’ble Court observed that commercial organisations feel that civil remedies are time taking and not in their best interest. There is the unfortunate rise in thought that if the civil matter is further registered under the criminal horizon then the scope of favourable settlement opens up and the time-taking mechanisms can be easily bypassed. Hon’ble Supreme Court condemned such illegitimate practices by the organisations and individuals and noted that such misleading attempts are obstruction for the court in pursuit of ‘Truth’ and ‘Justice’.
In the case of Bomanji Kavasji v.Mehernosh there was a case where the trust had decided on a scheme to construct, on an ownership basis and without profit residential property for deserving members in land leased at a very reasonable ground rent. When the distribution of property started there was a dispute regarding terms and conditions leading to the stage of meetings and negotiations. Between this one party approached the criminal court and filed a complaint against the sponsoring body formed by the trust, it was held that there shall be no justification at all to criminally proceed against the accused where the disputes lie under the ambit of civil proceedings.
Powers of the court in such matters
The fundamental doubt that shall arise while discussing such a topic would be the solution to such instances. Such events are a serious threat to the justice delivery process and the hoi polloi shall not trust the judicial process if it is been used in such a malicious way. To counter such events the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 has appropriate solutions. Section 482 is a pioneer in this justice-delivering process. Section 482 of CrPC is read as follows:-
Section 482 of CrPC allows the High Court to quash the FIR that it finds to have some malicious element causing some barrier to the ongoing due process of law. In the case of The Commissioner of Police & Ors. V. Devender Anand & Ors. Three judge bench of the supreme court of India held that initiating criminal proceedings for settling the ongoing civil dispute shall be considered an abuse of the process of law and such attempts by any parties shall be addressed by the High courts. In such cases, the High Courts shall be deemed as justified to quash the criminal proceedings by exercising their inherent power under section 482 of the CrPC, 1973.
Currently, in the judicial system, it has been a common practice to deploy unfair means to address their case in a manner that they get a favourable adjudication in their favour. This may help them in the short-run by getting immediate success but eventually, justice and truth are served. It is also important to note that section 482 of CrPC, 1973 is not an absolute solution. It is a tricky section to be present before the court to get justice for the client. Courts usually restrict themselves from using their absolute powers like quashing the FIR. To restrict such unfair practices the need is to orient the individual practising the field about the code of procedure essential while representing the interest of the party in the court. It is also the need of the hour to introduce such legislation that caters to restricting civil disputes to be converted into criminal matters and adequate punishment for the same course of action should be presented to restrict such obstruction in process of law. It may be difficult in its appearance to restrict such misuse but a single step taken might be the start of a moment in the same conduct.
Author(s) Name: Devya Shah (Institute of Law, Nirma University, Ahmedabad)
Vanita Manohar, ‘What is the purpose of civil law?’ (AIRTRACT, 12 April 2018) <https://www.airtract.com/question/what-is-the-purpose-of-civil-law> accessed 16 July 2022.
M/S Indian Oil Corporation v M/S Nepc India Ltd, (2002) Criminal Appeal No. 834/2002.
 Indian Penal Code, 1860, s 378, 403, 415 and 425.
Bomanji Kavasji vs Mehernosh, 1980 Bom. C.R. 503.
Kapil Chandna, ‘Supreme Court deplores the tendency to turn civil cases into criminal ones’ (LAYERSCLUBINDIA, 25 July 2018) <Supreme Court deplores the tendency to turn civil cases into criminal ones (lawyersclubindia.com)> accessed 17 July 2022
 Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973, s 482
The Comissioner of Police &Ors. V. Devender Anand &Ors, (2017) Criminal Appeal No. 834/2017.